But beyond purchasing power, local preferences also play an important role. For example, in an EU comparison, the Croatians spend the most money for services related to tourist activities like accommodation, and Greece has the highest share among the EU countries regarding expenditure on olive oil. Germany leads the EU ranking with regard to package holidays as a share of consumer spending.

After nearly three decades of economic transformation and convergence, the Central and Eastern European countries have succeeded in narrowing the income gap with Western Europe. Following a period of orientation that is shorter in some countries and longer in others, they have moved into a stable growth path, benefiting significantly from their geographical proximity to Western Europe. 20 years ago, the average Bulgarian citizen earned only one-quarter of the EU-15 average per capita, as measured by gross domestic product adjusted for purchasing power (GDP). Today that figure is already over 40 per cent. The Baltic countries were able to bring their average incomes even closer to that of Western Europe. For example, purchasing-power adjusted GDP per capita in the region is currently over 60 per cent of the EU-15 average – almost a double increase compared with that of 1997.